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Annapurna North: No break for climbers in C3
image story

May 11, 2005 17: 33 EST
Another night went by, and the Annapurna climbers are still unable to leave their tents and push toward the summit. They are stuck in two tiny tents at 7000m, and they will soon run short of supplies. After two months on the mountain, the Italians are feeling the psychological pressure and the growing tension. Currently there are four Italian team members in C3, as Christian Gobbi decided to retreat back to BC yesterday. American Ed Viesturs and Finnish Veikka Gustafsson are also waiting for a pause in the tempest to go for the summit. Viesturs declared yesterday through a voice dispatch to Messenger website that he was ready to wait in C3 for some days if necessary.

Hope for the best, expecting…

Mario Merelli called home at 11:00 am local time. The wind seemed to be dropping slightly, and everybody started making plans for a possible summit bid. However, the teams refused to talk much about it, not wanting to jinx themselves and bring the wind back. Mario spent some time calculating how long they would need to go for the summit. His conclusion: “10 hours, and that´s being optimistic.”

“The Goddess of Abundance (Annapurna) is proving to be a difficult ‘conquest’,” he said.

And the wind won’t stop

The wind should have calmed down a little since yesterday, but forecasts show the Jetwind is still over Annapurna and will affect the area for the next 5 days. It looks like there will be high summit winds 15 to 25 m/s, possibly with shorter periods of lower wind.

Silvio Mondinelli is climbing Annapurna with his regular climbing mate, Mario Merelli, and also Mario Panzeri, Daniele Bernasconi, and, on his first Himalayan experience, Silvio's friend Christian Gobbi.

Mondinelli’s ambition aims far beyond Annapurna though. He wants the 14 8000ers and he wants them now. “I can't waste much time. I'm getting old!” he told ExplorersWeb, only half joking. After Anna he plans on climbing four more 8000ers - If he succeeds, he'll finish the year as a brand new member of the 14 8000er summiteers’ club.

For Ed too, this summit is special: If he succeeds, Ed will become the first American to join the small number of climbers who have stood atop the summits of all 14 8,000 meter peaks in the world, and climbed them without oxygen.

Year after year, climbers return to Annapurna despite its reputation as a difficult, dangerous mountain (a reputation earned in large part due to the high risk of avalanche.) Annapurna (8,091 m) is statistically the most dangerous peak of all the eight thousanders. The overall summit fatality rate is 40% (although not all climbers summit, of course).

Annapurna was the very first 8,000m peak ever summited. In 1950, French climbers Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal used only a rough map as a guide, and picked their way up an untried route to the summit. Their descent turned into a hellish nightmare, leaving them near death, with their extremities completely deadened by frostbite. Herzog and Lachenal survived their ordeal, but too many others have lost their lives over the years.

On Christmas Day 1997, Anatoli Boukreev was killed in an avalanche, an event that shocked the mountaineering community. In total, only 135 climbers have summited Annapurna - last year Ralf Dujmovits, Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, Hirotaka Takeuchi and Denis Urubko summited the mountain from the North side.

Image of Annapurna courtesy of Silvio Mondinelli.
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